The Tart Tatin is a beautiful dessert that is a delight for guests to eat but can be challenging for chefs to cook well. The traditional method of making it is to arrange apples, butter, and sugar fanned out in a pan and then top it with pie dough or puff pastry. The whole thing is cooked together in the oven whereby the apples are supposed to caramelize with the sugar while the dough becomes a delicate crust. In the end, the whole thing is inverted to apple-caramel tart perfection. In truth, all of those players require different cooking times to turn out well and if you want an amusing 25 minutes you should check out the great Julia Child making a colossal mess of one on her cooking show in the 60’s. Being the unflappable genius that she was, she rescued her tart but there is an easier way.
In this method, I cook the apples in butter first, ensuring they reach the perfect consistency. Then I add maple syrup for an instant caramel sauce. The dough is put on top and the tart is finished in the oven with more assurance that everything will finish in harmony. The syrup and fruit cooking together create an appley-maple caramel sauce that is so much better than the original white sugar version.
Unmolding it from the pan will always be a challenge but as Julia put it, “If it goes awry, that just gives you a chance to show your guests how clever you are when you find a way to fix it.” She was a woman who could put a positive spin on a soupy, apple disaster – I miss her.